"In Convict Cells," The Story of Mathilda Wrede,

Who Brought the Love of God and His Mercy and Kindness

Into the Barbaric Prisons of Finland,

From the 1880s to the Early 20th Century

By W. G. Wilson, Friendship Press (Eagle Books, No. 3), New York, 1937 & 1943

Note to the Reader: Most of us have heard about Joan of Arc who stirred up the patriotism of her countrymen in France and saved her country from the English king. Most of us have also heard about Florence Nightengale, at least her name has come down to us. She was a young British woman of conscience and brilliance of mind who single-handedly galvanized the public opinion of British society and revolutionized the nursing profession and the war hospitals of Britain, which had been sunk in a horrible, inhuman state for decades or longer. It was indeed a chilling death sentence to go into most any English hospital, for any wounded soldier in the early 19th century. Thousands contacted diseases in the hospitals they had not had before they entered, then perished in the the filth of the hospital, uncared for, crying out for water or for a bedpan to relieve themselves. There was no clean water to drink, no clean linens on the beds (if they had beds), the wards were full of bugs and lice, and filth of all kinds was not cleared away. Men relieved themselves right were they were lying--and they were left in their messes. Men were naked, or dressed in dirty rags. The wards were badly lit (with no lighting at night), ill-ventilated, the air unbreathable. Food provided was foul and scanty. The men would have been better cared for if they had been English stockyard animals! Medical care and nursing were a ghastly joke. The hospitals for war casualties probably killed many times more soldiers than they cured. Florence Nightengale, a young British woman of conscience and courage, saw these pesthouses masquerading as hospitals and said, "Enough!" A highly trained nurse, she could also train others to in sterilizing medical instruments and using antiseptic measures to purify water, as well as employ the hygienic methods that would provide the proper care the soldiers needed to recuperate and not sicken and die wretchedly in squalor.

Miss Florence Nightengale went up against doctors and medical men who wanted nothing of her "upstart" and "impudent" innovations in hygiene, patient care, and improvements of hospitals to cut down spread of infectious diseases in the wards--who looked upon her only as a threat to their own positions and reputations--and she won the fierce battle when she would not bow to anyone but God in the issues of life and death confronting the battlefield casualty, the wounded and suffering British fighting man. Queen Victoria herself read Florence Nightengales's broadsides and treatises on medicine and hospitals and patient care, which were by far the most advanced at that time, and appointed her as the one to change the entire system Britain had at that time so as to bring it up to date. Florence Nightengale labored ceaseless hours to do so, writing and moving upon important people to gain support for this and that part of her program and ceaseless campaigning for the cause of the sick and wounded soldier.

When I was stationed in Turkey, I had time off from work on the weekends, and then I would make a day trip to Istanbul to see the sights. I would take a ferryboat from the town nearest our Air Force base on the Sea of Marmara and it would pass by the hospital where Florence Nightengale had labored herself as a head nurse, bringing her hygiene and nursing expertise to bear upon the appalling conditions in the huge, decrepit army barracks that had been turned over to the use of taking the thousands of casualties of the Crimean War fought by the British, Turks, and Russians in the 1800s. Even in the 1960s, a century after the war, the mark she had made on Turkish history was still highly visible. That huge army barracks/hospital for one thing--it was made famous by her, and it loomed above the shoreline of the Asian shore as a landmark of the Florence Nightengale era and revolution in nursing.

I say all this because I had never heard of Mathilda Wrede until just lately, when sifting through a lot of old family papers, letters, books, and other materials to see what may be of value now for preservation or was to be thrown out. This book and story tell about a young woman who is very much like Florence Nightengale--like her she is most brave, most compassionate, a devoted Christian, and will not compromise with those who are wrong and seek to get her to abandon or water down her principles. How we need more such women today, who are like Florence Nightengale and Mathilda Wrede and Miss Lilias Trotter the artistic missionary angel of Algeria!

Because we need such role models for girls to aspire to be like, this story is worth passing on to you, in the hopes that it will strike a chord in hearts of young women who aim to serve Christ and be a Christian revolutionary and angel of mercy and not to compromise with the evil and inhuman conditions we still see most everywhere in this fallen world.

Mathilda, a young Finnish woman, found the prisons of Finland in the same condition as British hospitals near the battlefields. She was a Christian, like Florence Nightengale, and the love of Christ was a burning fire within her soul and spirit that forced her to do everything she could to change those prisons with the transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ and the boundless love of God.

How can one woman change a whole nation? Florence Nightengale changed the entire British Empire for the good. Mathilda Wrede changed the entire prison system for the good. Two small women, yet God used both mightily, beyond what all the men had accomplished before or since them, for God no respector of persons. We are all alike, man or woman, to him, in the realm of love and service to Him. He will use whomever is available--and Florence Nightengale made herself available and, thus, tens of thousands of lives were saved in her nursing career, and Mathilda Wrede made herself available, and hundreds and possibly thousands of Finnish prisoners found new hope and salvation in Jesus Christ from the 1880s into the early 20th century as she ministered to them.--Ed.

The blacksmith was hard at work in his open-fronted shop. As he worked the heavy bellows, the sparks leapt upward from the fierce flames, and the glowing light played on the great muscles of his hairy arms and chest. With the tongs he seized the red-hot bar of iron and plunged it into a bucket of cold water, where it sizzled and sent up a cloud of steam. Taking another piece of iron from the fire he laid it on the anvil. With his huge hammer he rained blows on it, beating it into shape.

A shadow darkened the open doorway of the forge. Two burly warders [prison guards] pushed forward a ragged, unkempt creature roughly inside. Shouting to the blacksmith, they pointed to the prisoner's leg and seized the man by the arms. The blacksmith took a red-hot iron from the fire and riveted a heavy iron ring round the struggling wretch's ankle, carelessly thrusting the glowing iron close to his leg. In the sinister red glare from the forge fire the powerful blacksmith and the two warders looked like a devil and his attendants torturing some puny victim. With a rough jest one of the warders thrust the butt of his musket [rifle] in the prisoner's back. The man raised his arm as if to strike, then his shoulders drooped again and he shambled out of the forge and up the street.

In the house opposite, a little girl [Mathilda Wrede, daughter of Baron Wrede] heard the din that the blacksmith was making and rushed to the window. Mathilda had a passionate love of horses and often watched the blacksmith shoeing them. But she was disappointed this time. Sobbing with pity and fright she watched the scene, until her governess came in and drew her away quickly.

On the way home from her governess's house that afternoon Mathilda did not chatter as usual. They reached the lovely park surrounding the house where she lived with her father, the Governor of the district of Vasa, on the western coast of Finland, and a jolly crowd of older brothers and sisters. Squads of men were at work in the gardens, digging and planting out flower-beds, mowing and rolling the green lawns. They had chains on their ankles, which rattled as they worked, and were guarded by warders with guns. Mathilda looked at the chains and shuddered when she remembered what she had seen in the blacksmith's forge that day.

"The King of Harma will get you," was one of the threats that the servants used to scare Mathilda when she was naughty. The real name of this man was Isotalon Antti, and from all the stories she heard about him Mathilda thought that he must be taller and bigger and fiercer and more wicked than anybody who had ever lived. He was like the wicked giant in the fairy tales. In the twilight, Mathilda heard the servants talking in whispers about the terrible things that went on at his farm. For these crimes he was sent to prison, where Mathilda met him in later years. In her childhood he was a great source of trouble to her father, because every time he came to the market at Vasa there was sure to be fighting,a nd often bloodshed. But one day Baron Wrede came in looking very pleased.

"I've found a way at last to tame the King of Harma," he said to Helena, his eldest daughter, who had taken their mother's place with the younger children. "You know how he always makes trouble whenever he comes to Vasa market with his gang of roughs. There's always quarrelling and fighting, and I'm afraid somebody will be killed one fine day. No one can manage him. So now I'm making him act policeman to himself," and the Baron chuckled.

"What do you mean, father?" Helena asked, while Mathilda listened with all her ears.

"I've asked him to be responsible for keeping order in the market, so now he has to behave himself, and he keeps all his tough friends in order too."

"Bravo, father," said Helena.

"But that doesn't mean that he is a reformed character," her father went on sadly. "That's where our prisons don't seem to do much good...."

Mathilda became bored with this grown-up conversation and ran out into the garden to play. But years later she remembered how her father had dealt with the King of Harma.

As she grew up, Mathilda hated more than ever the sight of people's misery; so, like many of us, she would not look at it more often than she could help. But the prisoners intruded on her life in all kinds of ways. Every time she looked at the dainty white wood furniture in her bedroom she remembered that it had been made in the prison by the hands of murderers and rogues, and her pleasure in it was spoiled. It was bad enough to meet chained prisoners in the garden or on her walks, and she avoided them whenever she could. But she guessed at the darker horrors that lay behind the grim walls of Vasa prison, where men were kept for years in tiny dark cells, chained to the wall like dogs. Nothing would induce her to pass that terrible building, and she would go far out of her way rather than go near it. She was able to keep the prisoners out of her thoughts and be gay and happy so long as he was not reminded of them.

One evening, when she was nineteen, she went with her father and sisters to a reception. Soon she was the center of a lively group who knew she was a good story-teller. "Tell us about the revival meeting this afternoon, Mathilda," they begged. "Was it very funny?" But for once Mathilda disappointed he friends. Instead of making fun of the preacher she began pouring out all that he had said. As she repeated the words which had so much moved her, the tears ran down her cheeks. Her friends looked at one another in surprise. Whatever was the the matter with Mathilda? Suddenly she noticed their embarrassed faces, and stopped. It was "not done" to talk seriously about religion at a party. She found her father and begged her to take her home.

That meeting, when the preacher spoke on the familiar words, "God so loved the world," was a turning-point in Mathilda's life.

Soon after, the lock on her bedroom door jammed, and her father, who was in charge of all the prisons in that part of Finland, ordered a prisoner to mend it. He clanked up the stairs in his heavy boots with the chains rattling on his ankles, his face dull and hopeless. It shocked Mathilda to see a man in chains working in her room, but she tried hard not to show her feelings. She began talking to the prisoner and brought him some coffee. He seemed grateful for her interest and asked if she would visit him in the prison the next Sunday. When she told her father he would not allow her to go until she said, "But, father, I have promised!" So the next Sunday, accompanied by a warder, she paid her first visit to the prison. This visit was followed by many others, until she was going to the prison almost daily.

One night she had a vivid dream. She thought that a chained prisoner entered her room and stood gazing at her with sorrowful eyes. His face was so clear to her mind when she awoke that for years afterwards she expected to meet the man himself on one of her prison visits. She lay awake for the rest of that night, wondering whether God was trying to tell her His will through the dream. She tried hard to think that she was mistaken. She thought, "It can't mean that He wants me to do prison work; I am too young." But she saw again in imagination the unhappy face of the prisoner of her dream, and heard his words, "Speak to them of Jesus while yet you have time." She asked herself, "Does God REALLY mean that prisoners are to come first in my life?" Still unable to sleep, she went out as soon as it was light and walked up and down the beach. During the early morning walk she heard God's voice as clearly as Joan of Arc walking in her father's fields heard Voices calling her to free her country. Mathilda knew quite surely in that hour that God had work for her to do among prisoners.

Just as this time her father resigned his post as Governor, and the family went to live on their country estate. Mathilda was only twenty, and she loved the country. There would be no ugly reminders of the prison. It would be easy to forget that God had seemed to speak to her in a dream. Then Mathilda had to go to the city to see the dentist. While there she saw a squad of chained prisoners go by with an armed guard. The sight of them filled her with shame and horror. She would not be a coward any longer and run away from the sight of their misery.

She went straight to the Chief Inspector of Prisons and asked for a permit to visit all the prisons in Finland. He looked at her in surprise, and asked her age.

"Twenty," she replied.

"Not a great age."

"But that will improve with time," she answered with her quick smile.

Probably the Inspector thought that she would soon grow tired of visiting prisons, and that the best way of curing this young enthusiast was to let her have her own way. So he gave her the permit and letters of introduction to several prison governors.

Chapter Two

"But I must see him alone," Mathilda insisted. "He can't think of me as a friend if a warder is with me. I want the prisoners to know that I am ready to trust them."

"But it's not safe. Your father would not like you to be alone with such a bad lot. Why, that man is made of leather. Nothing makes any impression on him. I've never met such a stubborn case."

"Well," said Mathilda," all the more reason to let me try. Please let me, I am not afraid."

She got her way and went with the warder down the dark, damp corridors. From the cells came the rattling of chains and sometimes shrieks and curses. The air was stale and foul, and Mathilda longed almost unbearably for the sunshine and freshness of her country home. They stopped before a cell door. The warder lifted a great bunch of keys and put one in the lock. The door grated on its rusty hinges and swung open. Mathilda stepped inside the dirty narrow cell, although she was nearly driven back by the sickening stench of the unaired room in which the prisoner spent his life. The warder locked the door on the outside. Mathilda heard his footsteps echoing in the long corridor. She turned to face the big man who seemed to fill the tiny cell. A heavy iron collar was round his neck, attached by chains to an iron belt round his waist. His wrists, too, were fettered and fastened to the belt by short chains.

The prisoner looked up in astonishment when the door shut. Who was this young girl who stood there so confidently? Why, the warder had left her alone with him! She was speaking to him in her pleasant voice, but he scarcely heard what she was saying. He stared at her. She wasn't really pretty, he decided, especially in that dowdy grey dress. Her nose was too large, for one thing, but she looked kind and carried herself well. Gentry, too, he could tell! Whatever was she doing there? Her clear eyes looked straight at him. The words on her brooch--what were they? Grace--Peace." Well, there wasn't much grace and peace in a prison cell!

"Won't you sit by me on the bed?" Mathilda asked. "We can talk more easily."

"Must stand when someone comes into the cell," he growled at her.

"But now we are here alone you can sit if I ask you."

Yes, she was alone with him, and she didn't seem to be afraid, he thought. Yet he was a big man and had a dangerous reputation. She couldn't possibly know who he was. He'd soon frighten her! Interrupting her rudely, he said:

"She that big dent in the wall? How do you think it came there?"

"Tell me."

"When I first came they let me work at carpentry in my cell. One day I made up my mind to kill the warder. When he came in I aimed an axe at him. The blade flew off and struck the wall. That is the dent it made. Now you know the kind of man I am."

"Yes, I see."

He stared hard at her and asked,"Why do you come here? Don't you knbow that I'm the worst prisoner here? And if I'm that, I'm the worst man in all Finbland," he added boastfully. "Aren't you afraid of what I might do to you? I'm desperate, as you see."

"No," Mathilda answered. "I'm not the least afraid, although I do know who you are, for I am sure you do not wish to harm me. Besides, God is with me, and while He watches over me I have nothing to fear."

She spoke simply and naturally, as if to a friend. Suddenly the prisoner broke down. This young girl was not afraid of him! "I thought there wasn't a creature who cared for me...and now you come...and speak so kindly...and say that God loves me..." His broken words trailed off into a long silence. Suddenly he grew fierce again. Jumping violently to his feet he rattled his chains in a frenzy. Almost beside himself, he strode up and down the narrow space like a caged beast, his face distorted with rage and hatred, shouting out curses and threats.

Mathilda pout her hand on his shoulder and walked up and down beside him. "If it is true that God forgives us, why don't men forgive us too?" he panted. "While they chain me up like a mad dog I'll only grow worse, till I'm altogether a devil!"

As he grew quieter she begged him to read the New Testament. But he said that all his books had been taken away. "I threw them in the warder's face one day." She asked him to keep her own New Testament. He took it gratefully, saying, "I shan't throw THIS book away."

When at last she left him he begged her to come again.

In those days--it was about fifty years ago when she began her work [which would be about 1887]--prisons were far worse places of punishment than they are now. Nobody seemed to expect the prisoners to be anything but criminals, and they became more unhappy and sullen and often violent the longer they were kept in prison. Mathilda was sure that her way of treating them was the only hope of lifting them out of the sullen despair or violent hatred into which the conditions of their punishment drove them.

"Nothing," she wrote once, "has so great an effect upon the prisoners as to show them confidence and love. I believe that the secret of success in our work of rescue is to love those whom we seek to save without waiting until we find something lovable in them. What would become of us if Christ had not loved us and come to our help?"

Each prisoner was a person to her, a child of the same Heavenly Father, and love made her quick to see the best way of helping each one.

In another cell was a young prisoner, an educated man, who would sit by the hour and brood. He told Mathilda that the hardest punishment he had to bear was to sit alone in his cell and remember that he had done nothing but evil all his life. "If he could look back to even one good deed!" he said.

At once Mathilda began to wonder how she could give him the opportunity of doing some little kindness. One day when she was visiting him, she said, "I am so thirsty. I wonder whether you would be kind enough to give me something to drink."

She had seen on the shelf in his cell the mug of unfermented beer which was served to the prisoners each morning. He did not answer. She asked him again.

"Please don't make fun of me," he said at last. "How could you, the daughter of the Governor of Vasa, drink out of a prisoners's mug? You don't mean to!"

But at last she made him realize that she really wanted him to offer her a drink. He fetched from the shelf the horribly dirty cracked mug, and without flinching she drank from it. She handed it back and thanked the prisoner.

"It is for me to thank you," he said, his face shining with happiness, "for this has been a wonderful day for me."

One day, as she was on her way to Kakola prison, she fell and broke her ankle. Several prisoners were waiting there to see her, and she could not disappoint them. Some of them would soon be setting out on the long and terrible journey which would end in the mines of Siberia; they would be leaving behind their wives and families and the country which they loved, and they would never see them again. Mathilda's heart was always shattered by the awful misery and despair of those prisoners who had to face the living death of exile. She must manage to reach the prison somehow, in spite of her broken ankle, and give them what comfort she could. Setting his teeth against he pain, she said, "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth I will arise and walk." She got to her feet and walked without help. At the prison she found one of the convicts a changed man. Although he was being sent to Siberia shortly, he was happy and at peace because he had come to believe that God loved him. He was a shoemaker by trade and asked Mathilda if she would do him a favor. "Will you let me measure you for a pair of boots as a parting gift? I want to do something to show my gratitude to my best earthly friend."

Forgetting her injured foot, Mathilda stretched it out to be measured. The prisoner was horrified when he saw how swollen it was. "And all this because of us," he said over and over again. The story soon spread through the prison, and all the prisoners who were allowed out of their cells gathered in the corridors to express their sympathy as she limped painfully out to a carriage.

One snowy day a prison official met her coming out of a cell quite blue with cold, and asked why she was not wearing her coat. She told him that she could not dress warmly while her friends in the cells were freezing. Some prisoners who heard this conversation told others about it, and all of them were amazed by this evidence of her courtesy. "Something which seems to be quite natural seems to them a sacrifice," Mathilda commented.

For a long time she lived on fourpence a day, the allowance made for a prisoner. In this way she felt she could share the prisoners' lives and also save money with which to help them. She was a real friend, who could not be happy to eat well and be warm and comfortable while her friends were unhappy and in chains.

It was Christmas Eve, and Mathilda went from cell to cell giving the men copies of her Christmas letter, and wishing each one "a blessed Christmas." As she walked up the corridor she heard wild shrieks and curses. A prisoner was rushing up and down his cell, waving a shoemaker's knife, and bellowing that he had sworn to kill either a warder or himself. None of the warders would face him. At last several of them decided to go in with a mattress and pin the man against the wall. Then they could seize him, get the knife away from him, and put him in irons. But Mathilda could not bear that.

"No," she said, "this is Christmas Eve; you can't put him in irons. I will go and see him." They were preparing to keep the birthday of the King of Love. His wayward child must be won by love.

Lifting her heart to God she walked calmly into the cell where the prisoner was raging up and down like a madman, thirsting to take life. She tried to persuade him to give up the knife. He refused. "A man should always keep his word--that's what you tell us," he retorted, "and I've sworn not to give it up."

"I'm glad that you mean to keep your word in future. But will you not give me the knife as a Christmas present?" But he pushed her out of the way and went on brandishing the knife and uttering fearful oaths.

"Then I must take it," she told him. "Put out your hand and I'll try."

He looked at her scornfully and laughed. He'd like to see her get the better of him! Then he held out his strong clenched fist. She made a game of it as if he had been a small child, and unbent his tough fingers one by one until she held the knife in her own slim hand. She sat and talked with him for a long while until the fit of violence had passed and he was quiet again.

On Christmas Day she remained in the prison until the doors were closed for the night. It was a great sacrifice both for her and the family who loved her, but the joy of the prisoners made it worth while. In the bakery they set aside the first Christmas loaf for her, and the porter's wife brought an egg and some sugar to make it more appetizing. That night she wrote to her sister, "From the corridor windows I could see the reflection of thousands of Christmas candles in the city below, and imagine the many happy homes overflowing with joyous Christmas cheer. At Kakola there was the usual picture--eyes filled with tears, chains rattling but lips silent, for the sufferings and regrets were too great to express in words."

Altogether she spent seven Christmas Days with the prisoners.

Soon after she began her work in Vasa prison Mathilda met for the first time Isotalon Antti, the "King of Harma," as he was called, whom she had heard so much about while she was a child. He had been caught and imprisoned for one of his many crimes of violence. When Mathilda went into his cell she found a powerful giant of a man, heavily chained, charging up and down like a caged animal. Coming close to her, he leaned threateningly over her from his great height, rattling his chains and trying to frighten her. As he gazed into the steady fearless eyes which looked up at him, he suddenly recognized her.

"You must be Governor Wrede's daughter," he said. "You have the Land-Chief's eyes."

Mathilda remembered how, years abefore, her father had stopped Isotalon making a nuisance of himself in the market by giving him the job of keeping order there. Mathilda could not give him a job in the prison, but in every possible way she showed the same trust in him that her father had shown. He became her slave, and when he had finished his sentence he left the prison promising to give up his evil life. He begged Mathilda to visit him if she were ever in the neighborhood of his farm at Harma.

Some years afterwards she sent him a message saying that she would arrive on a certain train. On the platform she saw Isotalon, towering head and shoulders above a crowd of other discharged prisoners, all of whom she knew. She was surprised when they all of them rushed forward to help her with her heavy luggage. She struggled with it herself and left it in the snow while she went towards the group.

"Good morning," she said gaily, and held out her hand.

The men all raised their caps and Isotalon seized her hand. She could not doubt the warmth of their welcome now.

"But didn't you recognize me before?" she asked.

"That was not MY doing," said Isolaton proudly. "I thought you might not like me to recognize you in front of the grand people on the train, so we pretended not to know you. But we see you are not ashamed of your old friends after all."

They escorted her in triumph to the farmhouse, and Mathilda remembered the stories which had been whispered round the fires when she was a girl. Within the farmhouse terrible deeds had been committed--but everything seemed peaceful now. It was packed to the doors with men and women who had come to see Mathilda Wrede, and she had a great time talking to them and hearing all about their lives. At last it was time for bed and she was shown into a little room. As the house became silent she could not help thinking again of the stories she had heard. The house seemed haunted by the evil past of those who had lived there. Almost Mathilda felt afraid. Suddenly she heard stealthy footsteps padding outside. Then something heavy seemed to fall against the door. She held her breath, her heart beating furiously, but everything was still and quiet, and at last she dropped off to sleep.

In the morning Isotalon asked how she had slept, and she told him of the footsteps outside the door. "That," he said, "was me. You see, I am responsible for your safety, so I slept all night on the floor outside your door. Nobody could get in to harm you unless they had killed me first."

Later, Mathilda had the great joy of knowing that Isotalon had become a Christian. He went about telling everybody that the change in his life was due to her.

Matti Haapoja had commited murder, as well as countless other crimes. For many years he had been an exile in Siberia. Now he was lying under sentence of death in Helsingfors prison. Mathilda asked permission to see him. The warders hesitate about letting her in. Time after time they begged her to go away without seeing him. "He is dangerous," they said, "and may do you an injury.""He has the more need of being brought to God," she told them. "And God, who sends me on His errand, will take care of me."

As the door of the cell closed behind her she saw the outline of a man's big figure on the bed, the grey blanket drawn over his head. As he did not move she spoke to him. Like lightning he leaped off the bed, lifting his heavy irons as if they were toys--a man of remarkable strength and physical beauty.

"Who are you and what do you want here?" he panted.

"I heard you had been in Siberia and wondered if you could give me news of any of my friends there," and she mentioned the names of other prisoners who had been sent into exile.

"Now I can guess who you are," said the prisoner. "You are the daughter of Governor Wrede. He was the finest set-up chap that ever I saw. But you--" and he looked contemptuously at the plain, middle-aged woman in her plain dress.

Her quick eyes took in the look and she laughed gaily. "We can't all be as handsome as my father--or as Matti Haapoja," she added.

"Well," he said defiantly, "if you've come here to preach at me I can tell you straight away that it's a waste of time. My heart is as hard as a stone and my sins as big as a mountain."

"I think you are a little unfriendly to sit there and let me stand," was her rather unexpected reply.

"Would you really dare to sit beside Matti Haapoja?" he said in amazement.

"If you'll only make room for me, I will," she replied with a smile. She sat beside him for a long time asking about Siberia and his friends there. After she had gone he remembered that she hadn't attempted to "preach at him."

She visited him many times after that, until one day he began asking her of his own accord about her belief in God. She seized the opportunity joyously and told him simply and convincingly what God meant in her life. Suddenly, Haapoja jumped up and threw himself violently on the floor. His chains clanked and a warder looked through the spy-hole. He feared that Mathilda was in danger. She made a sign to him and he went silently away. After a long period of intense struggle Haapoja got up. "I have spoken to God," he said, "and told Him about my sins. Now it is up to Him to help me if He can."

Haapoja felt a burning desire to tell some one about the terrible things he had done in his past life. "I have never spoken about themj to any one before," he said to Mathilda. "Can you bear to listen to dreadful things?"

"Yes, if it will help you, I can."

He was a good story-teller and made her see scenes more terrible than she could ever have imagined. She was used to tales of horror, but she sat by his side numb and speechless. He asked her to promise him that when the death-sentence was carried out on him she would be there. "The last face I want to see is yours."

Haajopa confessed to several crimes which he had committed in Siberia. He wanted to be sent back there to give information. The Public Prosecutor promised to help him, but months went by and nothing was done.He managed to get hold of a shoemaker's knife and stuck it in the crevices of the wall for support. He was almost to the top when he was discovered. In his fury he struck the warder with his knife and then turned it on himself. Wounded nearly to death, he was thrust into irons and thrown on the floor. When Mathilda visited him he was slowly recovering.

"Do you remember," he asked, "that you promised to be with me at my execution? They'll carry out the death-sentence quickly after this. I know that you intend to keep your promise, but it will be too much for you. I would rather put an end to my life."

Mathilda begged him not to think of such a thing, but he said, "God, who knows why I wish to do it, will forgive my last blood-stained deed."

Day after day she sat with him, waiting for the execution. Then one day, when she paid her usual visit, she was told that he was dead. He had wounded himself severely and this time he had not recovered.

The prisoners had little to give to the woman who gave so much to them. But they did what they could, and she treasured an astonishing number of odd gifts. Into them the men had poured all their love and gratitude.

One day a prisoner whom she visited gave her a wooden spoon on which he had painted a dandelion flower. He was used to an outdoor life--a dreamy, poetical young fellow. She knew what torture it was to him to be shut up in a stuffy cell where he could see only a patch of sky and no trees or flowers. He told her about a dandelion plant which grew up between some stone in the bare, dusty prison yard. By craning his neck he could see it from his tiny window. "At first," he told Miss Wrede, "there were only two green leaves. Then came a bud which grew into a flower. It was golden like a little sun. How I loved it! Later, it became a ball of fluff, which could fly about, and perhaps sow itself over the whole yard. I painted it for you, for it is a true picture of yourself. You have dared to come here--to sorrow, sin, and filth--and we have received friendliness and sunshine from you, and so good seeds have been sown in the prison.

Another man showed her a beautiful brooch which he had carved. "Wherever did you managed to get the ivory?" she asked him, wondering.

Seven months ago," he told her, "I found a large piece of bone in my soup. I bleached it for a long while in the sun, and then I carved it to give you pleasure."

He held the brooch out to her on the palm of his rough, dirty hand. As she took it from him he went on, "Probably this bone came from an old worn-out ox. But out of that bone a life-prisoner has made you an ornament. A convict, of course, is someone very low and bad, but God's love can burn out my sins just as the sun bleached this bone. A great sinner may be a jewel in His crown, just as the old boiled bone from the prisoner's soup has been turned into an ornament for you."



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